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The evaluation of architectural tradeoffs is complicated by implications in the circuit domain which are typically not captured in the analysis but substantially affect the results. We propose a metric of hardware intensity (η), which is useful for evaluating issues that affect both circuits and architecture. Analyzing data for actual designs, we show how to measure the introduced parameters and discuss variations between observed results and common theoretical assumptions. For a power-efficient design, we derive relations for η and supply voltage V under progressively more general situations and illustrate the use of these equations in simple examples. Then we establish a relation between the architectural energy-efficiency metric and hardware intensity, and we derive expressions for evaluating the effect of modifications at the microarchitectural level on processor frequency and power, assuming the optimal tuning of the pipeline. These relations will guide the architect to achieve an energy-optimal balance between architectural complexity and hardware intensity.
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